Jaws of the Snake

Jaws of the Snake

It has dominated our greatest business and political minds for the best part of four years. The mainstream media have detailed every blip and dip on the financial radar as results and forecasts have swung from dire to upbeat, and then back again.

Just when we think we’ve stepped back from the cliff and overcome the slide in confidence, a new wave of uncertainty descends. So, it’s no wonder small business—the powerhouse of job growth—is reluctant to hire staff and bank on sustained recovery.

The perils of the great recession/debt crisis are real and we should be informed about them, but they have also obscured an equally pressing and important shift in our global economy.

The fact is, the foundations of our employment market have fundamentally shifted—and are not going back. This shift began well before the financial crisis took hold, and has only picked up speed because of it.

The economist Jared Bernstein called this shift, which began over a decade ago, “the jaws of the snake”, and they’re opening wider than ever.

Once upon a time, productivity increased alongside job growth. Not so any longer. For the past decade, a critical decoupling of job creation from productivity has occurred, and this has major repercussions for workforces the world over and the economies they’re built on.

Now, we need to learn to live (and work) within this gap. Even if and when the debt crisis is overcome, the need to respond to higher productivity and slower jobs growth will persist.

Here’s what’s in store for job seekers and employers in 2013—the year of the snake—and beyond.

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